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Microsoft Access 2007Microsoft Access 2007 Form Design Tips (also for MS Access 2010 and 2013)

by Luke Chung, President of FMS, Inc.

Introduction

Microsoft Access 2007 introduced many new features to give Access forms enhanced behavior and a modern look that's more Vista-like. Here are some tips for adding these features to your application. Note that these features also apply to Microsoft Access 2010 and 2013.

Display Tabbed Documents

Microsoft Access 2007 offers an option to use a new tabbed interface so multiple objects (forms, reports, queries, and tables) can be opened at once. Each object is a separate tab so users can easily see the available objects and click on the one they want:

Tabbed view of displaying multiple objects in Microsoft Access 2007

This option is set from the Access Options, Current Database:

Setting the tabbed interface option in Microsoft Access 2007

NOTE: Some people or applications may prefer the traditional Overlapping Windows which supports placing forms/objects side-by-side. This is not available with Tabbed Documents.

Support Resizable Forms

MSAccess 2007 lets you create controls that automatically resize with the form. Designed correctly, the controls you specify will grow and shrink as the user resizes or maximizes the form. This is especially handy if the user interface is set to Tabbed Documents since your forms will be maximized to fill the entire screen. Controls can be individually set to resize by anchoring them:

Anchoring objects in Microsoft Access forms

Datasheets Should Have Alternating Row Color

To make rows easier to identify, you can specify a different color for every other row.

This option is available globally from Access Options under Datasheet, Alternate Background Color. Or you can set it for a specific datasheet from the Home, Font section when viewing it:

Setting Alternative Record Colors in Microsoft Access Datasheets

Reduce the Size of Graphics on Your Forms and Reports

If you embed graphics on your forms or reports, Access 2007 can store them much more efficiently. MS Access 2007 can convert graphics into much smaller PNG formats to significantly reduce the size of your databases. This does not affect graphics already on your forms and reports but helps if you add new graphics or replace existing ones. To activate this feature, change an Access setting. From the Access Office button, choose Access Options, Current Database. At the bottom of the Application Options section, set the Picture Property Storage Format to: Preserve source image format (smaller file size)

Reducing the size of graphic files in Microsoft Access databases

Caution: Do not do this if you need to support users with older versions of Access since the graphics will not appear.

This change also impacts the transparency of picture images imported for command buttons. If your command buttons use themes or background colors, having transparent pictures is helpful. By default, white in your imported pictures are transparent if you use the option to "Convert all picture data to bitmaps (compatible with Access 2003 and earlier)". The are not transparent (remain white), if you set the option to Preserve source image format.

Use Windows XP Themes

If you haven't already, make sure the Use Windows-themed Controls on Form option is checked under Access Options, Current Database. This feature was introduced with Access 2003 and gives your command buttons, radio buttons, and other controls a rounded more modern look.

Use Modern Fonts

If you use the sample databases that come with Access 2007, you'll see the use Calibri and Segoe UI fonts rather than Tahoma and Verdana fonts of before. Use the new fonts to give your forms and reports a fresher look.

CAUTION: These fonts come with Office/Access 2007 but may not be installed on user's machines if they are using earlier version of Access.

Enhance Command Buttons

  • Support Hyperlink Hand over Command Buttons
    Set this Cursor On Hover property for command buttons so a hand rather than the traditional Windows arrow appears over the command button.
  • Add Graphics to Command Buttons
    Add graphics to Command Buttons with Text. Before you could have graphics or text, but not both. (If you need this feature for pre-Access 2007 deployments, use this feature in our Total Access Components).
  • Use Transparent Buttons for a more Modern Look
    Command buttons can have transparent borders so they look flat and more like Internet Explorer type buttons.

Example

Here's a simple example from Total Access Emailer for Access 2007. Notice the transparent Command Buttons with graphics across the top of the form and the datasheet with alternating colors below it:

Enhanced command buttons in Total Access Emailer for sending emails from Microsoft Access 2007

Use System Colors for Office Themes

In Access 2007, forms have color themes which can be changed globally across all the Office products. Setting your colors properly let your forms take advantage of these global changes. For instance, you should use colors like:

  • "Background Form" for the detail section
  • "Background Light Header" for headers and footers
  • "Dark Text" for labels
  • "System Button Text" for command buttons

CAUTION: These colors are not backward compatible, so if you use these in Access 2007 and your users are using an older version of Access, these colors will appear Black, so you'll need to programmatically modify these if you're not in Access 2007.

Conclusion

Microsoft Access 2007 offers a wide range of new features to help you design applications that are much more visually appealing and functional. Take advantage of the new power to give your Access applications a modern, fresh look of Office/Access 2007 and Vista.

Good luck!


Additional Resources

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FMS Products for Microsoft Access 2007
All our Microsoft Access 2007 Products

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